It’s the year 1066 and England is in turmoil. In January the King Edward the Confessor died without leaving an heir. So what would happen to the country? Enter 3 men who felt they had a claim to the throne. By December 1066 England would have a new king and the other 2 men would be dead.
So who were the contenders?
Harald Hardrada was the King of Norway and claimed the English throne as he claimed Harthacnut who was a previous King of England and Edward the Confessors half-brother had left the throne to him if there was no heir to the throne. Edward had no heir.
Harold Godwinson was the brother in law of Edward the Confessor and he claimed the Edward had claimed him his heir.
William of Normandy was the illegitimate son of Edward the Confessors cousin Robert of Normandy and William claimed Edward had promised the throne to him as his heir.
Let battle commence.
Before the battles commenced Harold attempted to consolidate his position as King amongst the nobles of the land. He was in the best position as he was in England when Edward died. Harold was crowned the day after Edward died and spent the next month’s building on his claim, but this wasn’t to last as he faced challenges to his throne.
The first battle was between Harald Hardrada and Harold Godwinson. This battle took place at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on the 25th September 1066 with King Harold’s army beating the army of Harald Hardrada and killing Harald and King Harold’s brother who had sided against his brother.
After this battle news came that William had landed in England and so King Harold and his troops marched south.
William spent the months between the death of Edward and his arrival in England building up his army to launch an invasion. When William landed at Pevensey on the south coast on the 28th September 1066 he had a force of around 10000. Harold had an army of approximately 7000.
The 2 sides eventually met at the battle site near Battle on the 14th October 1066. Just as a side note it’s not really known where the battle took place exactly but the town of Battle is the most likely perhaps where the Abbey stands now or a mini roundabout in the town.
Harold and the English army were on the hill above William and his forces were in the valley below. The battle began around 9am and lasted until dusk, probably with a lunch break. Harold and William both fought in the battle alongside their men. Eventually for whatever reason Harold’s forces came down the hill and levelled out the playing field. During the fighting Harold’s brothers who were also commanders were killed and eventually Harold was killed sometime in the late afternoon thus leaving the English without a leader. There is much speculation as to how Harold died. The Bayeux Tapestry which tells the story of the battle would have us believe Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, but whether this is true or not is unknown as the first recorded mention of this was in the 1080’s.
After the battle William and his troops marched on London to claim the throne. What he didn’t know was that a new King had been chosen. At this time there was a body of nobles called the Witenagemot who could choose the monarch if there was no obvious heir. They chose Edgar Ætheling who was Edward the Confessors great nephew. Needless to say Edgar was never crowned, but in the future he did try to get it back but eventually sided with William the Conqueror (William of Normandy) eldest son.
William of Normandy faced several more battles on his way to London all of which he won and eventually all the Nobles in England declared fealty to William. William was crowned King of England on Christmas day 1066 and he reigned the country until his death in 1087 in Rouen, France. William was succeeded by his third son William II.
So by Edward the Confessor taking a vow of chastity and not having any children England was thrown into chaos for a year. This left many dead on the battlefield and England coming under the rule of the Normans, instead of the Danes!
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!